There are lots of things that can make or break a movie star’s career, but one of the most important is getting the right role at the right time. Every major star has that one role that transformed their fortunes and quite a few also have that one that made everything go sour, but the most damaging roles are usually the ones that got away. Lots of stars still made it big after a role they desperately wanted didn’t come their way, but there’s always the question of what might have been.
Just ask poor Barbra Streisand. She might be a huge star as both an actor and a singer, but she’s had more than her fair share of big rejections, with a new study finding that she was turned down for a whopping 40 roles, most famously as Gloria Swanson in 1980’s Gloria, but also in the role that Kathy Bates played in Titanic. She’s also a very selective actor too though, having turned down 22 big roles, including Sally Bowles in 1972’s Cabaret.
Jack Nicholson meanwhile may have a whole lifetime’s worth of legendary performances, from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest to The Shining to Batman, but he’s also been turned down for an incredible 36 roles, like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Can you imagine that casting? It certainly would have been interesting, even if it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Anthony Hopkins in that film.
Meanwhile, Audrey Hepburn’s career was also full of highlights but between the roles she rejected and the ones she was rejected for, there were an incredible 73 more movies she could have been in, from Spartacus (which she turned down) to Giant (which she was rejected for). When it comes to the roles that were hardest to cast, none comes close to Roxie Hart in Chicago, which went to Renee Zellweger in the end but saw the likes of Charlize Theron and Gwyneth Paltrow get rejected.
Why not check out which other big stars missed out on roles in your favorite movies and imagine what could have been?